Tuesday, January 31, 2012

There is Absolutely No Reason for Florida to be the End of the Race for the GOP Nomination

There seem to be quite a few people who want to already call the GOP nomination for Romney, as he is expected to win tonight in Florida, probably by a double digit margin.  But there is actually no logical reason for this to be the case:
  1. Assuming a Romney victory tonight, he will be 2-2, winning in New Hampshire and Florida, while losing in Iowa and South Carolina.  How exactly is someone who is 2-2 inevitable?  Are New Hampshire and Florida so important that we don't need to listen to what the next 46 states are telling us?
  2. The next races will be caucuses in Nevada (February 4th), Maine (February 4-11), Colorado (February 7) and Minnesota (February 7).  As we know from Iowa, Caucuses can be decided by very low percentages of the population turning out and can be difficult to predict through polling for that very reason.  If enough Tea Partiers turn out for these, Newt could win 2-3 of them.  Victories in places like Colorado and Minnesota could help Newt regain some of the momentum (there is some evidence that he could do well in those states, though it's based on relatively sparse polling).
  3. This race has had two dramatic turns in the last two weeks (2 weeks ago Romney was leading in South Carolina and 1 week ago Newt was leading in Florida), a lot can happen by March 6th when 10 primaries/caucuses take place.  If Newt can win some races, if Santorum drops out and if some more well-respected conservatives come out for Newt, momentum could shift back in his favor.  Also, the sole reason people seem to be voting for Romney is his electability and that could very well be called into question.  Recent polls show that he is losing his appeal with independents and is starting to do worse vs. Obama.  The more people find out about Romney, the less they like.
  4. History suggests it ain't over until it's over.  In 1976, Reagan, to the establishment's severe dismay, challenged the sitting Republican President, Gerald Ford, in the primaries.  Reagan started out by losing Iowa by 2%, New Hampshire by 1%, Massachusetts by 27%, Vermont by 69%, Florida by 6% and Illinois by 19%.  That means he started 0-6 and went for 2 months without a single victory, the first one coming on March 23rd in North Carolina by 6%.  Can you imagine the amount of pressure he must have been under to quit?  State after state, week after week, he lost, some contests by whopping amounts.  And North Carolina hardly proved to be a respite as he lost Wisconsin by 11% and Pennsylvania by 88%.  It wasn't until May 1st that Reagan scored his second victory (Texas), so through over 4 months of campaigning, he was 1-8.  But you know what?  He ended up doing fantastically well after that and if Mississippi hadn't betrayed him at the convention he could have been the nominee in 1976.  Think about it, a race that started 6-0 for an incumbent President being narrowly decided at the convention, where all 50 states had a say.
Now, I'm not saying that Newt doesn't have an uphill battle.  He clearly does for a variety of reasons (the establishment is backing Mitt, Mitt has a massive warchest which he is using to carpet bomb media markets with negative ads and purchase endorsements, Santorum is still refusing to drop out, etc.) but given how many twists and turns there have been in this race so far, I think it is dangerous to jump to conclusions.

Is It Time for the Tea Party to Start Its Own Political Party?

A couple of years ago, when people started mentioning the idea of the Tea Party becoming its own stand-alone political party, I immediately thought it was a bad idea, one that would guarantee victory to the Democrats.  But lately, thanks to the establishment trying to ram Democrat-lite Mitt Romney down our throats, I've started thinking it might not actually be a bad idea and might actually increase the chance of a conservative taking the White House.  Right now, the establishment of the GOP has a laser focus on appealing to moderates, the thought being that the base of the party is going to fall in line and then with independents, they can win the election, their sole ultimate goal (it's pretty clear now they don't actually care what the GOP candidate actually believes in just as long as he wins the election and then repays them with favors, political appointments, access etc.).  Unfortunately, this religious belief in "moderation" is making many conservatives feel a bit disenfrachised, so much so that many are talking about staying home in November despite their hatred for Barack Obama.  And if the GOP loses its base, it really has no chance of winning, neither the Presidency nor the Congress. 

Now imagine if their were also a Conservative Party in the mix (or a Tea Party or an American Freedom Party, the name doesn't really matter, just the principles behind the name), one that could either choose to back the GOP nominee or field their own candidate in an election.  Suddenly, the establishment would have to start actually appealing to the conservative movement with a candidate who actually believes in conservatism and doesn't just pay lip service occasionally.  In such a system, people like Mitt Romney, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole would have zero chance of getting the support of both the rump GOP AND the new Conservative Party at the same time, which they will need to have for any hope of winning the Presidency. In the end, we will start getting actual conservatives who believe in conservative principles as the nominee, exciting the base and giving voters a real choice.

I realize that forming another political party is a drastic and potentially risky move (the Conservative Party will have to be prepared to field a third party candidate for any chance of the establishment taking the threat seriously).  But given the GOP's poor history of nominating candidates who believe in small government and conservative principles (there was a 52 year gap between Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan!) and the dangerous times that we live in, I think it is time to start thinking about doing something drastic.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Romney as Flipper the Dolphin

I would say this is one of the better videos of this election cycle and not just because of the dolphin sound effects:

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Watch Herman Cain Endorse Newt Gingrich and Newt's Awesome Speech Afterwards

I was kind of surprised that Herman Cain waited so long as it was clear how close he was with Newt after their 1-on-1 debate late last year. Anyway, better late than never. Watch the whole thing, Newt gives a great speech after the edorsement:

Saturday, January 28, 2012

What Did Paul Weyrich, Founder of Heritage, Think of Newt and Mitt?

PolitiJim has a great post which illuminates what Paul Weyrich, the founder of the Heritage Foundation and the Moral Majority thought about Newt and Mitt before he died in 2008. Please read the whole thing, but here are a couple of key excerpts. First, his thoughts on Mitt (who was being considered for McCain's VP nominee at the time):

When a chief executive can violate multiple articles of the oldest functioning constitution in the world and disobey statutes he solemnly swore to defend and execute faithfully, then blame judges who never even asked him to intervene, he mocks the principle of limited government and the separation of powers. He robs Americans of their unalienable right to self-government, for which so many soldiers, sailors and airmen have died.

These are just two issues (there are more) that absolutely disqualify Mitt Romney as a viable Vice Presidential option. He would fatally harm your appeal to voters with deep constitutionalist and social conservative commitments.

If Governor Romney is on your ticket, many social conservative voters will consider their values repudiated by the Republican Party and either stay away from the polls this November or only vote down the ticket. For the sake of your election, the health of your party, and the future of America you must not allow the obvious electoral consequences of that to occur.

And now on Newt:
Temperamentally, there is nothing that suggests that he wouldn't make a decent President. Contrary to all of the fol de rol of the sparks and fury that he creates, he is very pragmatic underneath and he does not do things that are terribly foolish. Most of what he does, he knows precisely what he's doing.

The whole piece is pretty extensive and definitely well worth the read.

Romney's Medicare Fraud

What do you think is more serious ethics violation, teaching a college course (the charge against Newt) or being on the board of a company that defrauded taxpayers out of tens of millions of dollars, knowing about it and not reporting it to authorities? You decide:

Romney's Bribery of the Florida AG With a Promise of a Position is Against the Law

Romney will stoop to any level to get someone to be his surrogate. He already offered a job to the Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi, who surprise, surprise, is now vocally supporting him on Greta.

Here is the appropriate part of the code:

Title 18, Part I, Chapter 29, Section 599 of the U.S. Code:

Whoever, being a candidate, directly or indirectly promises or pledges the appointment, or the use of his influence or support for the appointment of any person to any public or private position or employment, for the purpose of procuring support in his candidacy shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if the violation was willful, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

Friday, January 27, 2012

When Did Obamacare Become Okay for the GOP?

The segment below from the debate last night really demonstrated how corrupt the GOP establishment is. Mitt Romney, their candidate, said that top down socialist healthcare is "not worth getting angry about." It's amazing how the GOP views winning an election (so they can get their government posts and their access to the White House) as more important than their own supposed principles. Though at the rate Romney is losing independents AND the base, they won't be winning anything.

Thoughts on the What May Be the Last GOP Debate and the Florida Primary

It looks like Romney's new debate coach really paid off because he was really ready for Newt last night.  I think Newt does better when the questions are about policy or when they are just attacking the GOP, because that brings his very focused and effective fire.  He seems to thrive on answering those questions, looking both passionate and yet calm at the same time.  He doesn't do so well when the questioners throw some red meat on the stage and try to get the candidates to tear each other apart for it.  Newt seems to vacillate between not trying to seem too angry, and therefore letting himself get hit, and then getting angry and saying something he will regret later (also I think Newt started off way too angry after all the character assassination thrown his way by Romney's campaign over the last couple of days, if you notice he could barely even look at Romney).  Newt, who is full of content, just doesn't do well in these essentially content free battles which are just personal insults going back and forth.  Mitt, who lacks any content, clearly does well, especially with his new coach.  When the debate did move to actual policy discussions Mitt ended up getting creamed during the discussion on Romneycare. For Mitt, a top down socialist healthcare system was somehow not worth getting angry about.  Was he in a coma in 2009 and 2010? You bet it's worth getting angry about!

Anyway, at this point, it looks like Florida is Mitt's for the taking and there are likely not going to be any more GOP debates after this one as there is no incentive for Romney to say yes.  He will leave Florida with momentum and one of the main avenues for his opponents to stop that momentum will no longer be there.  But all hope is not lost.  The Tea Party is mostly behind Newt and they are the masters of grass roots organizing, something that will help in the upcoming races which are caucuses in Nevada, Maine, Colorado and Minnesota.  If they can get the very passionate and energized Newt supporters out on caucus night, perhaps Newt can take 2-3 of those and that could be enough to make it a race again.  Just remember, in 1976, when Reagan challenged President Ford, he lost the first 5 contests and yet was able to take the race all the way up to the convention.  It's not over yet. 

This is a fight for the soul of the Republican Party and if Romney wins, it has no soul.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Case for Space

Your nerd sensors will probably go off on this post but one of my favorite science fiction shows ever is Babylon 5.  To this day, I remember the case that was made for going into space by Commander Jeffrey Sinclair in the first season:

Mary Ann Cramer: I have to ask you the same question people back home are asking about space these days. Is it worth it? Should we just pull back? Forget the whole thing as a bad idea, and take care of our own problems, at home.
Cmdr. Jeffrey Sinclair: No. We have to stay here. And there's a simple reason why. Ask ten different scientists about the environment, population control, genetics, and you'll get ten different answers, but there's one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on. Whether it happens in a hundred years or a thousand years or a million years, eventually our Sun will grow cold and go out. When that happens, it won't just take us. It'll take Marilyn Monroe, and Lao-Tzu, and Einstein, and Morobuto, and Buddy Holly, and Aristophanes, and - all of this - all of this - was for nothing. Unless we go to the stars.

Kind of puts things into perspective now doesn't it?  Bravo to Newt for trying to get us off our collective duffs.

Have You Noticed Romney Isn't Attacking Newt Over Any Actual Issues?

This morning, looking back at the attacks from Romney and his minions in the establishment, none of them are actually criticizing anything substantive.  No attacks on his 15% flat tax plan or his 0% capital gains tax plan.  Even criticism of his limited amnesty plan have grown extremely muted.  No, the focus is exclusively on dishonest attacks attempting to nitpick Newt to death.  Romney attacks Newt for being a consultant for Freddie Mac while Romney was actually a part owner of both Fannie and Freddie.  Romney attacks Newt for criticizing Reagan in the 1980's when Romney was openly critical of the Reagan-Bush era as recently as 1994!  He also says that since Reagan only mentioned Newt once in his diaries, that he was inflating his importance.  Well, let's see, Michael Reagan, Reagan's son, Art Laffer, developer of supply side economics, , and Bud McFarlane, Reagan's national security adviser, all have endorsed Newt.  Also, as Speaker he clearly continued the Reagan revolution in the House by balancing the budget for 4 years and reforming welfare.  So who the hell cares how many times he is mentioned in his diary and if he criticized Reagan in a few speeches (from the right mind you, as other conservatives did as well, including George Will who said that Reagan was engaging in the "moral disarmament of the west" by negotiating with the Soviets).  Then there are the ludicrous attacks on Newt for teaching a college course in the early 1990's.

These attacks are just evidence of the vacuous campaign that Romney is running.  There is so little talk of the issues and his actual record (while his public sector record is off limits he is allowed to mention his private sector record but you aren't allowed to ask any questions about it), instead the focus is on destroying the competition and spewing "insipid pap" (as Mark Steyn eloquently put it) such as "I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that's the America millions of Americans believe in. That's the America I love."  I'm still waiting for him to mention "a thousand points of light".  It may work in the end as there might not be another debate after the one tonight and the Republican National Media Establishment (RNME, pronounced "Our Enemy") will continue to relentlessly attack Newt in their juvenile fashion (my twitter feed was a buzzing with mocking of his space speech, like something out of the beginning of Revenge of the Nerds).  Hopefully the Tea Party folks and others who believe in conservatism and freedom can hold them back.  We'll see.

The more this crap goes on though the better I feel about my decision to not vote for Mitt if he is the nominee.  I will not give my support to someone who is so dishonest, entitled and vacuous.  And I know I am not alone in this.  If the establishment thinks we will all act like sheep and just follow whomever they pick for us, they have another thing coming. 

Anyway, when was the last time the establishment picked a good President anyway?  Maybe Calvin Coolidge, but he only became President because Harding died.  Kind of a long drought, I'd say. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Obama Accelerating Aid to Egypt After Islamists Win 72% of Seats in Parliament

This is just unbelievable.  Egypt is getting rewarded for turning to the dark side:

Undersecretary of State Robert Hormats, part of a US delegation that held unprecedented talks last week with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, said Washington wanted to provide "more immediate benefits" to Egyptians, who earlier this month conducted their first democratic elections in decades.

"During this period, we want to be as supportive as we can. This is an historic moment. Egypt's a country of enormous importance," Hormats said.

Under the plan, some non-urgent US aid slated for other countries - he did not name them - would be redirected to Egypt. And funding in the pipeline for long-term programs in Egypt would be shifted to quick-impact projects, he said.

I don't think Obama could get more idiotic if he tried.

The State of the Union Address Was a Great Reminder of What This Election is About

While in the midst of some intense internecine warfare within the GOP it is sometimes easy to forget exactly what this election is about.  It is about getting Barack Obama out of office and making America great again (which will involve fixing all of his numerous mistakes).  Anyway, last night's State of the Union address was an excellent reminder of all of this.  It's hard to read such tripe even to make fun of it by below are some key excerpts with color commentary from myself:

On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the verge of collapse.  Some even said we should let it die.  With a million jobs at stake, I refused to let that happen.  In exchange for help, we demanded responsibility.  We got workers and automakers to settle their differences.  We got the industry to retool and restructure.  Today, General Motors is back on top as the world's number-one automaker.  (Applause.)  Chrysler has grown faster in the U.S. than any major car company.  Ford is investing billions in U.S. plants and factories.  And together, the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs. 

Basically, he screwed over Chrysler bondholders for the simple reason that "he could" in order to help out his union buddies who continue to pump out instant lemons like the Chevy Volt.  If you took a poll and you asked people what the #1 automaker in the world is, would anyone actually say GM?  Stuffing the channel is not really the same thing as sales.  On Chrysler, I recently went to a Chrysler dealership to look at the Town and Country.  After talking with the salesman about what I want and how much I wanted to pay, he suggested I go to a Honda or Toyota dealership.  He said because Hondas and Toyotas are much more dependable their resale values are higher so he really can't be anywhere close to competitive on lease terms (the higher the resale values the less money you have to pay over your lease term).  Great job Obama!  They might be growing but even their dealers admit they still make crap that will be worthless in just a few years.

What's happening in Detroit can happen in other industries.  It can happen in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Raleigh. 

Wait, so you want what happened to Detroit to actually happen to other cities?  Empty lots, high crime, no jobs and a football team that has won 1 playoff game in about 50 years?  I hope the citizens of Cleveland and Pittsburgh, especially, were holding on to some rosaries and saying some hail maries after that one.

We should start with our tax code.  Right now, companies get tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas.  Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world.  It makes no sense, and everyone knows it.  So let's change it.

Well, one way to change it would be to lower our tax rates so they aren't one of the highest in the world.  But I guess that would be TOO EASY!  No we want to have a complex bureaucracy which attempts to stop companies from keeping their costs down, hence keeping inflation in check.  Places like Wal Mart with its cheap imported goods help Americans of limited means live like kings, at least relative to the rest of the world and to even just 2 decades ago.  More than 2/3rds of poor households have more than 1 television and 78% have air conditioning.  As the folks at GaveKal research have said in the past, "it's never been so cheap to be poor". 

No American company should be able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes by moving jobs and profits overseas.  (Applause.)  From now on, every multinational company should have to pay a basic minimum tax.

So wait, any company that does business in the US will have to pay a basic minimum tax even if they don't have any operations here?  That just screams "unintended consequences" like acting as a disincentive to do business here if you are based overseas.  That reduces competition on the margin and will increase prices.  Also, the tax itself will probably be passed on to consumers, raising our prices and making us poorer.  I guess price increases of 83% for gas, 24% for beef and 22% for bacon aren't enough for the man.  But then again, he has $4 million vacations paid for by others so he doesn't feel the effect of price increases on everyday items anyway.

And every penny should go towards lowering taxes for companies that choose to stay here and hire here in America. 

Third, if you're an American manufacturer, you should get a bigger tax cut.  If you're a high-tech manufacturer, we should double the tax deduction you get for making your products here.  And if you want to relocate in a community that was hit hard when a factory left town, you should get help financing a new plant, equipment, or training for new workers. 

I'm sure nothing could possibly go wrong having the government decide, who should be punished, who should be rewarded and who should get a waiver.  Once again, companies will have an incentive to bribe, err I mean donate to the campaigns of, the right people in their search for pull.

So my message is simple.  It is time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America.  Send me these tax reforms, and I will sign them right away.

Unless, of course, those American jobs piss off one of his key constituencies (e.g. the environmentalists who killed the Keystone project).  But then again, political corruption is pretty simple.

Two years ago, I set a goal of doubling U.S. exports over five years.  With the bipartisan trade agreements we signed into law, we're on track to meet that goal ahead of schedule.  (Applause.)  And soon, there will be millions of new customers for American goods in Panama, Colombia, and South Korea.  Soon, there will be new cars on the streets of Seoul imported from Detroit, and Toledo, and Chicago.  (Applause.) 

You mean the free trade deals you held hostage for almost 3 years so that your union buddies could get more money?  

Tonight, I'm announcing the creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit that will be charged with investigating unfair trading practices in countries like China.

I'm sure the Chinese will love the idea of police focused on all the goods they send to the US.  Nothing like a good trade war to get the economy moving.  Hawley-Smoot, anyone, anyone?  Bueller?

I also hear from many business leaders who want to hire in the United States but can't find workers with the right skills.  Growing industries in science and technology have twice as many openings as we have workers who can do the job.  Think about that –- openings at a time when millions of Americans are looking for work.  It's inexcusable.  And we know how to fix it. 

Yeah, school choice would be a great way.  That would rescue millions of kids from failed schools where spending might be $20,000 per pupil but only a fraction actually goes to learning.  The rest goes to bureaucrats and unions.

States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets.  And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down.

Easier said than done due to the fact that Medicaid is eating away at their budgets.  A situation that will only get worse with Obamacare.

I believe as strongly as ever that we should take on illegal immigration.  That's why my administration has put more boots on the border than ever before.  That's why there are fewer illegal crossings than when I took office.

There are fewer crossings because the economy has been in the crapper for the last 3 years.  So I guess technically, Obama is responsible for that so, my bad.  Maybe there is a side benefit to Operation Fast and Furious, if the border is more dangerous, less people will want to cross.  Brilliant!

You see, an economy built to last is one where we encourage the talent and ingenuity of every person in this country.  That means women should earn equal pay for equal work.

Bring back the ERA!  This guy must be in love with the 1970's, he is doing his best to bring them back with the horrible economy and his Jimmy Carter like policies.

I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here.

You mean the commitment to socialism?

In the next few weeks, I will sign an executive order clearing away the red tape that slows down too many construction projects.  But you need to fund these projects.  Take the money we're no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.

More infrastructure spending?  Because it worked so well the first time.  It's just pissing away money and has nothing but a temporary impact.  But then again, he only needs it to last long enough to go until November 2012.  Who cares if he will be spending possibly $1.3 million per job like some estimates say he did with the original stimulus.  We are talking about a government that paid $30,000 per house to wire them for Internet!

And that's why I'm sending this Congress a plan that gives every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage, by refinancing at historically low rates.  (Applause.)  No more red tape.  No more runaround from the banks.  A small fee on the largest financial institutions will ensure that it won't add to the deficit and will give those banks that were rescued by taxpayers a chance to repay a deficit of trust.

This sounds like an insane idea.  This will have a major negative impact on the mortgage bond market because when mortgages get refinanced, the value of the bonds go down.  And this impact will continue into the future as any future investor will know that the government can ram through programs like this, adding to the risk of the investment.  While this may temporarily decrease the cost of mortgages, in the medium to long term, mortgage rates will go up because of this program as there will be fewer buyers for mortgages.

We've all paid the price for lenders who sold mortgages to people who couldn't afford them, and buyers who knew they couldn't afford them.  That's why we need smart regulations to prevent irresponsible behavior.  (Applause.)  Rules to prevent financial fraud or toxic dumping or faulty medical devices -- these don't destroy the free market.  They make the free market work better.

Faulty medical devices?  Oh yeah because industry purposely sells faulty medical devices.  Also, aren't there rules against this already?

I will not go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny your coverage, or charge women differently than men.

I guess they never taught him at Harvard how insurance is supposed to work (and if they did, he must not have received a good grade but we will never know as we have never seen his transcripts).  Insurance companies don't have to offer pyromaniacs fire insurance or cancer patients life insurance.  This would increase the costs for everyone.  So why are they required to cover everyone who walks in the door no matter how sick they are?  One of the central tenets of the free market is that you don't have to do business with anyone you don't want to do business with.  It's about choice, both for consumers and for companies.  But I guess he (and Romney) don't believe that there should be such a thing as choice in healthcare.

And I will not go back to the days when Wall Street was allowed to play by its own set of rules.  The new rules we passed restore what should be any financial system's core purpose:  Getting funding to entrepreneurs with the best ideas, and getting loans to responsible families who want to buy a home, or start a business, or send their kids to college.

Too bad these policies has led to extreme levels of carnage on Wall Street so that people with multiple degrees and great experience have had to move in with their parents.  Somehow construction jobs are more important than highly skilled professional jobs for this President.  But then again, those involved with construction tend to vote for him and his cronies.

But we need to do more, and that means making choices.  Right now, we're poised to spend nearly $1 trillion more on what was supposed to be a temporary tax break for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.  Right now, because of loopholes and shelters in the tax code, a quarter of all millionaires pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households.  Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.  

This is such an illogical statement.  So a small minority of millionaires pay lower taxes than a small minority of middle class households?  So?  And by the way, if Obama was any good at math he would realize that to close the deficit with tax increases would crash the US economy.  To close the budget gap, the tax rate on those making over $200,000 a year would have to be over 100%!

In fact, if you're earning a million dollars a year, you shouldn't get special tax subsidies or deductions.

Millionaires are abusing the tax code by giving to charities!  This is just so nonsensical.  Private charities are almost always more efficient than government entitlement agencies, so what sense does it make to hurt a major source of their financing.  It only makes sense if you want to make people even more dependent on government handouts.  Only a one dimensional character in an Ayn Rand novel could be that cynical, right?  Oh, I forgot, Obama is a one dimensional character who belongs in an Ayn Rand novel.

Now, you can call this class warfare all you want.  But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes?  Most Americans would call that common sense.

I think most Americans would call it common sense not to reduce the incentive to invest capital, especially when an economy is still in shambles.  The fact that capital gains taxes are lower than regular income taxes is one of those incentives.

For starters, I ask the Senate to pass a simple rule that all judicial and public service nominations receive a simple up or down vote within 90 days.

Again, it doesn't seem like they taught him very well at Harvard.  Our system of government is based on the idea that the majority will rule but the minority will have rights.  The U.S. Senate, especially, was formed in that idea in mind so that the states with large populations couldn't simply ram legislation through without the consent of some of the smaller states.  Our current system makes sure that appointees are properly vetted and no extremists come in.  I realize this means that we lose some very qualified people when Republicans are in charge of the White House, but it is a small price to pay to keep radical extremists like Elizabeth Warren from getting an important position.

The executive branch also needs to change.  Too often, it's inefficient, outdated and remote.

That is exactly what we are working on for election day 2012!  Seriously, did his speech writers even read what they wrote?

Ending the Iraq war has allowed us to strike decisive blows against our enemies.  From Pakistan to Yemen, the al Qaeda operatives who remain are scrambling, knowing that they can't escape the reach of the United States of America.

Huh?  Since when did the fact that we had troops in Iraq hamper our efforts to strike Al Qaeda?  Didn't Osama bin Laden die while we had troops there?  Also, long term, he really shouldn't be so smug as Iraq is looking like a disaster recently, thanks to the pullout.

As the tide of war recedes, a wave of change has washed across the Middle East and North Africa, from Tunis to Cairo; from Sana'a to Tripoli.  A year ago, Qaddafi was one of the world's longest-serving dictators -– a murderer with American blood on his hands.  Today, he is gone.  And in Syria, I have no doubt that the Assad regime will soon discover that the forces of change cannot be reversed, and that human dignity cannot be denied.

Seriously, does he not even get briefings on foreign policy anymore?  72% of the seats in the Egyptian parliament went to islamists who are more likely than not to tear up the peace treaty with Israel.  On Syria, it is amazing that he helped force Mubarak out after some mass protests but he does nothing to get rid of Assad after he murdered several thousand of his own people.

Anyway, there you have it.  A speech full of idiotic policy proposals that help his special interest groups in time for the election, half-truths (when we were lucky) and just utter nonsense.  On the positive side, if that is the best he can do, November shouldn't be that tough for the GOP.

Romney's Dishonest Attacks on Newt's Ethics

Romney has made a big deal of Newt being sanctioned by the House for an ethics violation but never seems to mention what the sanction was actually for.  He wants people to think he was guilty of taking money under the table or something but if people found out what hNewt was actually sanctioned for their first reaction would probably be "huh?"  Newt was sanctioned for teaching a course at 2 small Georgia colleges and the Democrats claimed that those courses were not for educational but for political purposes.  Not exactly earth shattering is it?  And the kicker is that the IRS, no friend of Newt or his policies, actually cleared him of any wrongdoing.  So it appears his only crime was to piss off the Democrats.  Anyway, be sure to read Byron York's excellent rundown of the ethics case (a case he covered extensively himself at the time).  Here are some key excerpts:

The Gingrich case was extraordinarily complex, intensely partisan, and driven in no small way by a personal vendetta on the part of one of Gingrich's former political opponents. It received saturation coverage in the press; a database search of major media outlets revealed more than 10,000 references to Gingrich's ethics problems during the six months leading to his reprimand.  It ended with a special counsel hired by the House Ethics Committee holding Gingrich to an astonishingly strict standard of behavior, after which Gingrich in essence pled guilty to two minor offenses.  Afterwards, the case was referred to the Internal Revenue Service, which conducted an exhaustive investigation into the matter.  And then, after it was all over and Gingrich was out of office, the IRS concluded that Gingrich did nothing wrong.  After all the struggle, Gingrich was exonerated.


The Gingrich case was driven in significant part by a man named Ben Jones.  An actor and recovered alcoholic who became famous for playing the dim-witted Cooter in the popular 1980s TV show The Dukes of Hazzard, Jones ran for Congress as a Democrat from Georgia in 1988.  He won and served two terms.  He lost his bid for re-election after re-districting in 1992, and tried again with a run against Gingrich in 1994.  Jones lost decisively, and after that, it is fair to say he became obsessed with bringing Gingrich down.

Two days before Election Day 1994, with defeat in sight, Jones hand-delivered a complaint to the House ethics committee (the complaint was printed on "Ben Jones for Congress" stationery). Jones asked the committee to investigate the college course, alleging that Gingrich "fabricated a 'college course' intended, in fact, to meet certain political, not educational, objectives." Three weeks later, Jones sent the committee 450 pages of supporting documents obtained through the Georgia Open Records Act.


In January, 1997, Gingrich agreed to make a limited confession of wrongdoing in which he pleaded guilty to the previously unknown offense of failing to seek sufficiently detailed advice from a tax lawyer before proceeding with the course.  (Gingrich had in fact sought advice from two such lawyers in relation to the course.)   Gingrich also admitted that he had provided "inaccurate, incomplete, and unreliable" information to Ethics Committee investigators.  That "inaccurate" information was Gingrich's contention that the course was not political -- a claim Cole and the committee did not accept, but the IRS later would.


the IRS began an investigation that would stretch over three years.  Unlike many in Congress -- and journalists, too -- IRS investigators obtained tapes and transcripts of each session during the two years the course was taught at Kennesaw State College in Georgia, as well as videotapes of the third year of the course, taught at nearby Reinhardt College. IRS officials examined every word Gingrich spoke in every class; before investigating the financing and administration of the course, they first sought to determine whether it was in fact educational and whether it served to the political benefit of Gingrich, his political organization, GOPAC, or the Republican Party as a whole.  They then carefully examined the role of the Progress and Freedom Foundation and how it related to Gingrich's political network.

In the end, in 1999, the IRS released a densely written, highly detailed 74-page report.  The course was, in fact, educational, the IRS said. "The overwhelming number of positions advocated in the course were very broad in nature and often more applicable to individual behavior or behavioral changes in society as a whole than to any 'political' action," investigators wrote. "For example, the lecture on quality was much more directly applicable to individual behavior than political action and would be difficult to attempt to categorize in political terms. Another example is the lecture on personal strength where again the focus was on individual behavior. In fact, this lecture placed some focus on the personal strength of individual Democrats who likely would not agree with Mr. Gingrich on his political views expressed in forums outside his Renewing American Civilization course teaching. Even in the lectures that had a partial focus on broadly defined changes in political activity, such as less government and government regulation, there was also a strong emphasis on changes in personal behavior and non-political changes in society as a whole."

The IRS also checked out the evaluations written by students who completed the course. The overwhelming majority of students, according to the report, believed that Gingrich knew his material, was an interesting speaker, and was open to alternate points of view. None seemed to perceive a particular political message. "Most students," the IRS noted, "said that they would apply the course material to improve their own lives in such areas as family, friendships, career, and citizenship."

What a monster, right?  Anyway, this is just another thing to put in the "Romney is scum" pile.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Think You Know Mitt?

Why Newt Won the NBC Debate

I watched the beginning of the NBC debate last night but had to wait until today to actually watch/listen to the whole thing.  The talking heads seem to be talking mostly about how Newt didn't do as well as in previous debates because NBC made the audience be silent.  While it is true that he didn't have any rabble rousing memorable moments like in last week's Fox News debate, I would argue that he will benefit the most from this debate for the following reasons:

1.  Santorum was a non-entity.  Because NBC was trying to get Newt and Romney to go at it, both Santorum and Paul seemed to barely get a word in edgewise.  Santorum is already having to fight the trend of big name conservatives breaking for Newt in recent days (Sarah Palin, Fred Thompson, etc.) and this debate is only going to reinforce the impression that a vote for Santorum is at best a wasted vote and at worst a vote for Romney.  And according to the latest PPP poll, Santorum voters prefer Newt to Romney but a 2-1 margin.  Santorum is currently polling at 13% in Florida, I would expect at least a few percent to go to Newt in the coming days.

2.  Mitt Romney hurt himself by getting his own finger nails dirty.  The reason Mitt's attack strategy in Iowa worked was because he used surrogates to go on the attack, keeping himself looking squeaky clean.  "Oh gosh, you know I have no control over all those Super PAC ad's" helped deflect criticism of his campaign (despite the fact that the Super PAC's were run by former campaign staffers of his and funded by his friends), while at the same time Newt looked like an "attack muffin" because he would fight back himself.  Well Mitt looks like he has forgotten this strategy and tried last night to go on the attack.  I can just imagine the meeting that he must have had with the army of consultants in his campaign.  "It seems that voters like angry, can you do angry?"  They missed the point that Newt gained votes because he passionately defended conservative principles, not because he was angry and not because he was angry at another Republican.  

Also, Mitt gets this really annoying stutter when he gets angry.  I know that is very superficial but as I was listening to the debate on headphones, it was practically overwhelming.  Just thought I'd mention it.

3.  Newt never took Romney's bait and stayed calm and on message.  I think one of the goals of MItt's rapid fire strategy was to get Newt to lose his cool and look un-Presidential in a key debate.  It didn't work.  While Romney did connect with some punches, he missed with others and Newt didn't do anything to hurt himself in Florida. When asked about Medicare Part D and English being the official language of government he could have easily looked like a statist or a racist.  Instead he provided extremely reasonable answer to both questions which I think most people would have a hard time arguing with.  It is actually funny seeing the same reporters who attack Newt for being erratic say that he lost this debate for being too even-keeled.  No pleasing some people (like Jennifer Rubin who has resorted to just making stuff up). 

In the end, this debate was forgettable but I think Newt should get a few percentage points from Romney looking so erratic (besides his angry stutter he did admit that his immigration plan relied on "self-deportation" whatever that is) and from Santorum being so marginalized.

It is Too Late for Mitch Daniels or any Other Deus ex Machina Candidate

After Newt's impressive victory in South Carolina, quite a few people in the GOP establishment have been talking about their hope for someone else to get into the race as Romney seems to be flailing badly.  One, Bill Kristol, has been doing that during this entire race but now there are even calls from Jennifer Rubin, who has been so pro-Romney she probably had his profile tatoo-ed across her chest.   This is just such an unrealistic hope you just wonder what these people are thinking.  If you look at the filing deadlines it looks like a new candidate would only be able to get onto about 14 different ballots across the country.  The math is easy enough for even a journalist to realize that this means that they will be shut out of 72% of the primaries and caucuses.  So how exactly can Mitch Daniels win?  The only option seems to be a brokered convention.  But imagine how batsh*t crazy the base will get if the establishment picks a nominee who the vast majority of them didn't even have a chance to vote for or against?  In the words of the immortal Homer Simpson, "that's not America, that's not even Mexico."

I've also come to the conclusion that none of these "dream" candidates are really that much better than what we have now.  They all have warts of some sort or another and that is probably why they didn't get into the race in the first place.  And at this point they just don't have the time to make a convincing case for themselves.  Mitch Daniels is distrusted by social conservatives for his "truce" comments and by national security conservatives due to his closeness with Dick Lugar, who has given cover to Obama on START.  Chris Christie, while combative, has quite a few warts policy-wise (global warming, gun control, illegals etc.).  Also, as a New Jersey resident I'm upset that he agreed to dramatically increase bridge tolls even though almost none of that money will actually go to New Jersey.  Even Paul Ryan, the golden boy of the establishment has some issues.  His most recent medicare reform plan only actually starts reforming medicare in 2022, which is after it is scheduled to go bankrupt.  Even he would probably stammer when asked about that problem on national TV.

I'm not saying that these candidates wouldn't be workable in the future or wouldn't have been had they entered the race last year.  Just about all of them are superior to Mitt Romney after all.  It's just too late for 2012.

Fred Thompson Endorsed Newt

This is great news. Fred Thompson was my top pick back in 2008. I also loved him in No Way Out and Hunt for Red October.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Problem with the Romney Campaign

Mark Steyn has a great piece today dissecting exactly what is wrong with the Romney campaign.  Here is a key section:

Why is the stump speech so awful? "I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that's the America millions of Americans believe in. That's the America I love." Mitt paid some guy to write this insipid pap. And he paid others to approve it. Not only is it bland and generic, it's lethal to him in a way that it wouldn't be to Gingrich or Perry or Bachmann or Paul because it plays to his caricature — as a synthetic, stage-managed hollow man of no fixed beliefs. And, when Ron Paul's going on about "fiat money" and Newt's brimming with specifics on everything (he was great on the pipeline last night), Mitt's generalities are awfully condescending: The finely calibrated inoffensiveness is kind of offensive.

And what's with the wind up? The "shining city on the hill"? That's another guy's line — a guy with whom you have had hitherto little connection other than your public repudiation of him back in the Nineties. Can't any of his highly paid honchos write him a campaign slogan that's his own and doesn't sound in his mouth so cheesily anodyne, as if some guy ran a focus-group and this phrase came up with the lowest negatives?

And where, among all the dough he's handing out, is the rapid-response team? Newt's "spontaneous" indignation at John King was carefully crafted by Gingrich himself. By contrast, Mitt has a ton of consultants, and not one of them thought he needed a credible answer on Bain or taxes? For a guy running as a chief exec applying proven private-sector solutions, his campaign looks awfully like an unreformable government bureaucracy: big, bloated, overstaffed, burning money, slow to react, and all but impossible to change.

Mitt's strategy for 2012 as for 2008 was to sit on his lead and run out the clock: Four years ago, that strategy died in New Hampshire; this time round it died one state later. Congratulations!

It Is Amazing How Badly Obama Has Messed Up Egypt

It's easy to miss this piece of news in the height of the NFL playoffs and election season but it appears that radical islamists have taken 72% of the seats in the Egyptian parliament. This is just such an utter travesty as it gives radical islamists the mandate to do pretty much whatever they want and they will have almost complete control of the constitution writing process.  While the military will have some input, I just find it hard to believe that the military will be willing to stand up to a legislative body with that kind of mandate.  Their families' safety depends on them going along.  It seems only a matter of time before Egypt rips up the peace treaty with Israel and Israel has to re-man the Southern Command, draining its economy and limited resources.  Even worse, after billions of US aid, Egypt has a formidable military, including M1A1 tanks.  Why exactly was getting rid of Mubarak so important?  Was there nobody in the administration who could have predicted this turn of events?  It is one thing to get rid of a dictator like Saddam Hussein, chances are his replacement won't be worse.  However, when you replace a Mubarak, you replace someone who has closely cooperated with both Israel and the US with a government that would likely be a lot less willing to play ball with the west.  Just as we are still feeling the repercussions of Carter's mishandling of Iran 33 years later, we will be feeling the impact of Obama's betrayal of Mubarak for decades to come.

The Importance of the South Carolina Primary Result

It really is amazing that just a week ago, Romney was 2-0, Huntsman was dropping out and his "moderate" supporters were supposed to flock to Romney, Romney was polling 10 points ahead in SC and about 25 points ahead in Florida.  Fast forward to today, literally just 7 days later, Romney is 1-2, Huntsman supporters clearly didn't flock to Romney, Newt won SC by 12.6 points and is now leading in 2 Florida polls by 9 points.

I realize this is partly par for the course in what has been a very volatile race where Michelle Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich were all front runners at one point or another before a single vote was cast and now we've had 3 contests and 3 different winners.  But I think the result in South Carolina was especially important for a several reasons:

1.  The Romney electability argument is in tatters.  The only real argument I ever heard for why we should nominate Romney is that he is the most electable in the field (it's not like they could point to his record in Massachusetts).  If you want to beat Obama, he is your man.  It doesn't necessarily feel that way right now does it?  If you add this year's contests to his electoral record, he is now 6-19.  To put that into perspective, that is a worse record than both the Buffalo Bills (10) and Cleveland Browns (7) have over their last 25 contests.  You'd actually have to go down to the St. Louis Rams, who are 5-20, for a worse record.  Perhaps nominating a 1 term Governor who left with a 34% approval rating isn't the greatest idea?

2.  It's clear that money and organization are nice but it is better to connect with voters.  Romney really does seem like the second coming of George H.W. Bush, complete with John Sununu.  Like the elder Bush, Romney has a horrible time connecting with voters, not really being to understand what makes them tick.  In 1980, Bush ran on his resume and by spouting generalities of what he would do as President.  Romney seems to be using the same playbook.  Can anyone remember any part of Romney's 59 point Bain Consulting powerpoint presentation pitch, errr, I mean plan?  With Newt, you remember that he wants to institute a 15% flat tax and get rid of capital gains.  He also points out specific things that he would do to help the locals wherever he campaigns.  In South Carolina, Newt kept talking about the I-73 corridor and the Port of Charleston.  In New Hampshire, he would talk about being able to provide power to Boston without hurting New Hampshire's natural beauty.  In Iowa it was ethanol.  It really is nice when a national politician comes into your town and instead of giving some canned speech that he could give 3,000 miles away actually does show that he cares about the local citizens.  Newt was also able to connect very well in the debates.  People are upset about the state of things and want someone who shares that feeling.  Newt capitalized on this feeling just as Reagan did at the debate in Nashua, NH when he resurrected his flailing campaign by yelling at the moderator "I paid for this microphone Mr. Green".  As George Will wrote back then: "Americans are getting angry and seeking authenticity, and Reagan gave them authentic anger...  When Reagan is aroused he is the most effective campaigner in living memory." (Side note:  This quote came from Rendevous with Destiny by Craig Shirley, an excellent chronicle of the 1980 campaign, definitely pick up a copy). 

Romney seems to be able to get angry at Perry not letting him finish a statement in a debate and Perry using edits in Romney's own book against him but other than that he seems to be about as passionate as toothpaste.  That's okay if your opponent is a technocrat like Mike Dukakis who wears a shirt and tie in a tank and can't seem to get upset when asked in a national debate "Governor, if Kitty Dukakis [his wife] were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?"  Not so okay if your opponent is a Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton or even a Barack Obama.

Oh and one more comment about Romney and his seemingly over-rated organization, if it was so good, why did he have to bus in BYU students to populate his rallies?  Wouldn't actual citizens of South Carolina have been better?

3.  Romney continues to not get any benefit from candidates exiting the race, even if they endorse him.  Remember when Jon Huntsman left the race and endorsed Mitt Romney?  The conventional wisdom is that these voters would go to Mitt Romney as he was the other "moderate" in the race.  That doesn't seem to be the case as Romney's favorability seems to have done nothing but go down since that endorsement (perhaps Huntsman gave him the cheese touch). It actually looks like some of the Huntsman supporters went to Newt, according to this Byron York piece.  The same thing seemed to have happened this summer when Tim Pawlenty got out of the race and endorsed Romney.  His supporters seemed to go anywhere but.  I guess the point is that if you wanted to support Romney you would have done so already given the mindless support he receives from the Republican establishment.

4.  Turnout Showed That South Carolina Voted for Newt with Conviction.  Turnout in Iowa and New Hampshire were pretty low, both down around 10% from 2008 if you adjust for the surge of Democrats, Independents and stoner college students who added to Paul's totals (turnout was up only 2.5% in IA and 6% in NH if you include everyone, pretty disappointing considering the Democratic race is noncompetitive and just out of sheer boredom turnout should increase).  Conversely, turnout in South Carolina was up a whopping 35% and still up 21% if you adjust for the Paul voters.  A low turnout election victory is a lot like a stock or the stock market going up on low volume, yes it is moving, but without any conviction, so it won't take much to reverse course.  From this point of view, the Santorum victory in Iowa, where he won with less votes than Romney received in his disappointing showing in 2008, and Romney's victory in New Hampshire were won without conviction on the part of voters.  No wonder neither "victor" received much of a bounce in the next race.  It's pretty clear from the South Carolina vote totals that the base is very excited about Newt right now and couldn't wait to cast their votes for him.

5.  According to the exit polls, there are no obvious kinks in Newt's victory in South Carolina.  Sometimes you can look at exit polls and figure out that a candidate won because of a disproportionate vote amongst a certain subgroup, like Santorum winning Iowa due to his victory amongst evangelicals in an evangelical heavy state.  In South Carolina, Newt's victory was as almost as complete as you can make it.  Newt won among both men and women (so much for affairs hurting him), all age groups over the age of 30 (under 30 went to Paul), college graduates and those without college experience, all income groups under $200k a year (representing 95% of the exit poll sample, so much for his "insulting" comments on the poor), Republicans AND Independents, and anyone who considers themselves at least somewhat conservative.  Romney, on the other hand, was able to carry graduate students (by only 2%), those making over $200k (somehow only connecting to the top 1-5% of the electorate doesn't sound like a winning strategy, mathematically, in a democracy), moderates and liberals (by only 3%) and pro-choice voters.  Essentially the voters who tend to vote Democratic in general elections.  It looks like voters understand something that the National Review doesn't, that Romney is an elitist moderate of mushy ideals.

Looking forward to Florida, based on these numbers, Newt seems to be in a good position, at least for now (in this campaign, visibility is no more than 24 hours, it is a relative eternity until Florida votes).  He actually received 47% of the 65+ vote in South Carolina which should be nice for him down there.  Also, his skepticism about Ryan's now failed medicare reform plan (his current one only takes effect after Medicare is scheduled to go bankrupt), and his views on immigration will probably help him in Florida, with its older and more heterogeneous population.

Anyway, we'll see what happens.  I have a sense that the Romney campaign is about to get completely unhinged as they desperately try to save his candidacy.  For example, what was up with their demand that Newt release the report of the ethics committee?  You know, the report that has been online for more than a decade?  Also, Romney seems to be personally attacking Newt on the stump now instead of using surrogates.  The next couple of debates should get interesting though Romney should remember that Newt's attack muffin phase wasn't working so well when he was attacking fellow Republicans.  GOP voters don't want to know that you can attack Republicans with passion, they want to know you will fight for them and against the establishment of Washington when you get there.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Newt's Awesome South Carolina Victory Speech

Newt, the Tea Party and other Reagan conservatives really stuck it to the establishment last night by winning South Carolina by 12.6% despite polls just a week ago showing a Romney victory by a margin of 10-11%. Anyway watch his victory speech (and please tell me what Jennifer Rubin was talking about when she said Newt was "down in the dumps", seriously I think she has become deranged in her love of Romney):

Friday, January 20, 2012

Thoughts on CNN's GOP Debate in South Carolina and Predictions for the Primary

While entertaining at times due to the back and forth, in ways it was a waste of time as I really don't see a winner from it.  As they say on Wall Street when the market closes unchanged, it was a waste of a clean shirt.  You can see that it was indecisive just based on the variety of different conclusions people left with.  Some, like Mark Halperin, think Newt won (the left of center commentator gave Newt an A+) because of his ability to defuse the ex-wife bomb left on his front steps by ABC just days before the all important South Carolina primary.  Others, like Dick Morris, think Rick Santorum won because of he was able to lay punches on both Newt and Romney.  The Hill didn't really see a winner either.  I always felt that to win a debate you really have to have memorable lines that people want to re-watch a few times and send to friends, winning on points doesn't really get you anywhere.  Newt was able to rejuvenate his run in the debate earlier this week (was it just earlier this week?  It seems forever ago already) because he actually had several memorable lines in one debate that really energized the base.  Judging by what I have seen today, the only thing that will stay with people is Newt's smackdown of John King for broaching the subject of his ex-wife as the first question of the debate (interesting that his second wife is the subject of a question but Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan are completely absent, way to go CNN!) but there was little after that.  Although personally another moment that will live in my head is Romney's sinister laugh when asked whether he would release his tax returns like his father did (he released 12 years worth but he probably didn't have complicated tax evasion schemes). 

In order for there to be a winner, someone has to have their mind changed about a candidate.  While I'm sure there will be a voter here or there who will switch, I think they will be scattered and will go in different directions.  Some will be turned off by Romney's evasion with regards to his tax returns.  Others will be turned off by Newt because of some of the attacks he sustained from Romney and Santorum (though I don't think this will be major.  The way Newt blows up is by saying something offensive in the debate which he didn't do.  Nor was there any focus on some of the issues that have tripped him up in the past, Freddie Mac, judicial supremacy and his criticisms of Bain).  And some people will be turned off by Santorum's manner in the debate.  He seemed to learn all the wrong lessons from Newt's rise, fall and rise again.   Yes, Newt because popular by going on the attack, but not when he was attacking fellow Republicans.  It was by attacking the liberal establishment and Obama and defending conservative values.  Santorum did land some punches but he looked snide and grating while doing it.  Not the best way to get people to actually vote for you.  Also, if you take a look at his attacks on Newt during the debate, many were really unfair.  While attacking Romney he seemed to bring lots of facts, while attacking Newt he pretty much got personal and petty.  Here are some examples that I gleaned from the transcript:

Santorum:  And then -- (cheers, applause) -- then we have Speaker Gingrich, who has been for an individual mandate, not back in the time that just was -- Heritage was floating around in the '90s, but as late as -- comments (since/in ?) 2008, just a few years ago, he stood up and said that we should have an individual mandate or post a $150,000 bond. How many $150,000 bondholders do we have here who can post a bond for their health insurance?

These are two folks who don't present the clear contrast that I do, who was the author of health savings accounts, which is the primary basis of every single -- (cheers, applause) -- conservative reform of health care. I was the author of it back in 1991 and '92, 20 years ago. I've been fighting for health reform, private-sector, bottom-up, the way America works best, for 20 years, while these two guys were playing footsies with the left.


You held that -- Newt -- Newt, you held that position for over 10 years. And, you know, it's not going to be the most attractive thing to go out there and say, you know, it took me 10 or 12 years to figure out I was wrong, when guys like Rick Santorum knew it was wrong from the beginning.

There are a few things wrong with this.  First, Santorum was in favor of the individual mandate at one time as well, so he doesn't exactly have clean hands and didn't know it was "wrong from the beginning" (unless he just admitted to lying in 1994).  Second, Obamacare is more than the individual mandate, otherwise Obamacare wouldn't have been 2,000 pages long.  It is a whole host of regulations that will warp our healthcare system, the individual mandate is just one.    Third, there is a big difference between saying something in a speech and actually implementing it.  Romney implemented a socialist healthcare system in Massachusetts, Newt defeated one while he was in office.  I don't think anyone doubts that Newt will do everything he can to get rid of Obamacare. 

Now for another one:

SANTORUM: Grandiosity has never been a problem with Newt Gingrich. He -- he handles it very, very well. (Cheers, applause.) And that's really one of the issues here, folks. I mean, a month ago, he was saying that, oh, I'm -- it's inevitable that I'm going to win the election and it's -- I'm destined to do it.

I don't want a nominee that I have to worry about going out and looking at the paper the next day and figuring out what is he -- worrying about what he's going to say next.

And -- and that's what I think we're seeing here. (Applause.)

For him to suggest that someone who was tied for first, and eventually won, the Iowa caucuses and finished with twice as many votes as he did; and finished ahead of him in New Hampshire in spite of the fact that he spent an enormous amount more money in both those places, plus had the most important endorsement in the state, the Manchester Union Leader; and I was 10 points behind him a week before the election and then finished ahead of him, so I was 2-and-0 coming into South Carolina -- and I should get out of the race -- these are -- these are not cogent thoughts.

I mean, and -- and -- and -- and let's just be honest. I mean -- (cheers, applause) -- I mean, Newt's a friend, I love him, but at times you just got to -- you know, sort of that, you know, worrisome moment that something's going to pop. And we can't afford that in a nominee. We need someone -- I'm not the most flamboyant and I don't get the biggest applause lines here, but I'm steady. I'm solid. I'm not going to go out and do things that you're going to worry about. I'm going to be out there and I'm going to make Barack Obama the issue in this campaign. (Cheers, applause.)

If the GOP nominee shouldn't be someone we have to worry about saying something that we have to worry about, that pretty much means Santorum can't be the nominee either.  Let's not forget some of Santorum's goodies like believing that contraception could be banned by the states, blaming radical feminism for the fall of the American family or shockingly blaming liberalism in Boston for the church child molestation scandal or equating homosexuality with bestiality. Just those quotes alone probably offended about 75% of the population.

And he seems to be either purposely obtuse or dangerously full of himself if he doesn't know why Newt called on him to quit.  There are some very logical reasons.  First, Santorum only won Iowa because he spent 90 days on the ground there, more than any of the other candidates by a country mile.  He literally bet the farm on it as he spent almost no time anywhere else.  That razor thin win helped him get a bounce in New Hampshire but now he is in danger of coming in last in South Carolina and Florida.  There just really is no realistic path to victory for him at this point. Chances are he will be out of money soon.  It's easy to not have money when focusing on a state like Iowa, it is much harder when you have to deal with multiple contests at the same time.  So Newt's thoughts are very cogent.  It's Santorum who has delusions of grandeur.  His only hope is for Newt to drop out of the race while I think Newt can still win with Santorum in the race as he will probably only be garnering 5% or less of the vote in short order.

SANTORUM: I will give Newt Gingrich his due on grandiose ideas and grandiose projects. I will not give him his -- his -- his -- his due on executing those projects, which is exactly what the president of the United States is supposed to do. Four years into his speakership, he was thrown out by the conservatives. There was a coup against him in '03.

I served with him. I was there. I knew what the problems were going on in the House of Representatives, and Newt Gingrich was leading this -- leading there. It was an idea a minute -- no discipline, no ability to be able to pull things together. I understand you're taking credit for the 1994 election, and you did have a lot plans. As you know, I worked with you on those, and we had meetings early in the morning on many -- many a week. And so we worked together on that.

But you also have to admit that this freshman congressman who wasn't supposed to win a race, came and did something you never did, which is blew the lid off the biggest scandal to hit the Congress in 50 years. You knew about it for -- for 10 or 15 years because you told me you knew about it. And you did nothing, because you didn't have the courage to stand up to your own leadership, the Democratic speaker of the House, take to the floor of the Senate, demand the releasing of the checks that were being kited by members of Congress, risk your political career, risk your promotion within the ranks and do what was right for America -- and that had more or as much to do with the 1994 win as any plan that you put together.

There are usually two types of executives, detail oriented operations guys and those with vision.  Sometimes you can get both in the same one but that is very rare.  The operations oriented executives look at what is feasible today and go for it.  They are great at turning around a company but not necessarily taking it to the next level.  Romney is one of these guys and to an extent, so was Jimmy Carter (he was very focused on the details of government but forgot the turning around part).  On the other side you have the visionaries.  In this category you have people like Thomas Jefferson and Ronald Reagan.  The reason I think visionaries win in the end, especially as President, is you can always delegate the actual execution of a plan, it is very difficult to actually delegate vision.  And if we ever needed a guy with vision, it is now.

On the house banking scandal, come on.  Does he actually expect us to believe Newt is someone who stays quiet and just goes along to get along?  Even at 68 years old he is a bomb thrower who doesn't care who he offends.  Give me a break. 

SANTORUM: And -- and you have Speaker Gingrich, who -- who believes there needs to be a legal pathway. That's where President Obama's position is. I think we need a -- again, just like health care, we need a clear contrast, someone who can say, look, we -- I have always been for making sure that the law is enforced, and enforced fairly. I'm -- I -- I grieve for people who have been here 25 years and maybe have to be separated from their family if they -- if they were picked up and deported.

We definitely want to tackle the illegal immigration problem but I think it is unrealistic to be too draconian about it, just realistically.  The more hard core you get on immigration, the easier you make it for Obama to win with less than 40% of the caucasian vote as you chase Latinos over to the Democrats.  Newt actually has a nice middle ground.  Both strong and humane, like Reagan.  Personally, I'm willing to give a little on immigration if it means no Obamacare, a strong defense, lower taxes, lower regulations and a conservative Supreme Court.

So now I wanted to finish by doing something dangerous, actually trying to predict what is going to happen tomorrow, as if I'm any good at it or even objective.  I think there is a chance that people are going to be very surprised by how much Newt wins tomorrow.  The Monday debate provided Newt with a few "I'm paying for this microphone, Mr. Green" moments.  The debate which helped save Reagan in 1980, occurred right before the NH primary and, because it was so close to the primary, the polls were still showing a close race.  He ended up winning with 50% of the vote versus only 23% for George H.W. Bush, who was the front runner in the polls just a matter of days before that.  Besides the momentum from the debate, Newt also has seen, in just the last few days, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, Jim Robinson, Michael Reagan and Pamela Geller endorse him (or at least tell SC voters to vote for him).  Conservatives seem to be finally coalescing around one candidate as they realize this is probably their last chance to defeat Romney.  I also wouldn't be surprised to see some people who don't usually vote come out for Newt given the importance of this race.

I think that barring a complete collapse, Romney will finish second.  But you never know.  His armor is not as shiny as it was a week ago since it now appears he didn't win Iowa and people are seeing a glimpse of the attacks that will come at him in the general (plus the fact he seems to have uninspiring responses about his private career, his wealth or even his taxes). Plus, in 2008, he came in 4th with only 15% of the vote, just behind Fred Thompson.  The battle for third is harder to call but I think it will go to Ron Paul.  There is just such a large Tea Party conservative wave that is going to Newt that I think Santorum will probably finish in the low teen's at best.  I think he realizes it as well as it explains his grating behavior last night.

Anyway, that and a dollar gets you a donut.

How Romney May Be Evading Taxes

A former Goldman Sachs investment banker highlights how Romney may have evaded taxes:

For Mitt Romney to have accumulated $20 to $100 million in his IRA suggests that somehow he had found a way around this $2,000 a year limit to contributions as there is no way contributing $2,000 a year could ever grow to $20 million in one's lifetime, much less $100 million, regardless of how good an investor one is.

One method Mitt Romney may have employed is to have made his initial investments in a 401(k) plan on a pre-tax basis because 401(k) plans allowed up to $30,000 a year in annual contributions back in the 1980's without the payment of ordinary income taxes. But even with making $30,000 contributions each year, it is hard to see how a $20 to $100 million fortune could be amassed in such a short time.

This suggests, and the Wall Street Journal article hints at this, that Romney was not making cash contributions to his IRA but rather parking equity shares of his companies' investment funds there, or quite possibly putting shares of private companies that his firm bought into his 401(k).

If this happened, we need to know at what valuation Romney made these contributions as it is very easy to claim a low stated value for shares of private companies or investment funds that have no publicly available market price. If Romney purposely understated the true value of the shares he contributed to his retirement plan he could be held criminally liable.

But Romney did not stop there with his tax avoidance scheme. It appears (and appearances are all we have at this point since Romney refuses to release his tax returns until the Republican nominating process is effectively over in mid-April) that Romney then at some time, possibly at his retirement, converted his 401(k) plan into an IRA and thus permanently avoided the contribution limits on IRAs.

But, as the WSJ reports, "Under current tax law, anybody investing an IRA in a private-equity fund, as Mr. Romney did, would likely incur a hefty special tax on 'unrelated business income,' also known as UBIT. This tax, (is) assessed at a maximum 35% rate..." There is no indication that Romney paid this tax.

And, according to the WSJ, Romney also may have made use of offshore tax havens like the Cayman Islands to further avoid paying his taxes. Romney's company, Bain Capital, made liberal use of offshore vehicles and one way to avoid paying the UBIT tax referenced above is to claim that Romney was not investing in a private equity fund, but rather in an off-shore corporation that itself invested in the private equity fund. ABC News reports that Bain Capital has set up over 138 secretive offshore funds in the Cayman Islands.

On principle, I really have no problem with private individuals paying as low a tax rate as they possibly can, personally I think taxes should be as close to 0% as possible.  What I do have a problem with is someone who, as Governor, raised the tax burden of the citizens of his state (including taxing the blind and volunteer firefighters!) and then may have used complicated schemes to avoid taxes.  If true, this pretty much nixes the electability argument for Romney which is pretty much the only argument for Romney.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Vote for Romney is a Vote for Style over Substance

In all the polls I have seen, there are a substantial number of self-described conservatives who are saying that Romney is their man.  From an actual policy point of view, this makes no sense.  He is weaker than Newt on fiscal policy, he is weaker on monetary policy, he is weaker on foreign policy and he is weaker on social policy.  The only reason a conservative would want to vote for him is because they are valuing style over substance, for how he looks and how he behaves instead of what he would actually do as President.  Basically, instead of voting for the man himself they are voting for his finishing school.  If Romney were overweight and had a temper with the record that he has, he would probably be polling at 5% and may have already dropped out.  Conversely, if Newt had a privileged upringing with all the right manners, he would probably be polling at 60%, with no change in any policy positions. 

We are a nation with major problems that need a real leader, we aren't selling pants. I just hope enough conservatives wake up to that fact before it is too late.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Another Reason We Have to Elect Newt: He Believes in Sound Money

Newt's talk at the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition foreign policy forum really gave me a "we have to elect Newt now" kind of moment.  He just understands why we need a strong dollar so thoroughly (h/t Weekly Standard):

"We need to get our house in order. And we need to vaccinate ourselves against foreign contagion. The correct answer to the Euro is not to spend more American money propping up the Germans who prop up Southern Europe. The correct answer is to figure how we seal our banks off; how we make sure we protect ourselves and then say to the Europeans: you have a problem and you need to solve it.

"Part of our approach ought to be to reestablish something Ronald Reagan did in 1981 and that is to have a Commission on Gold to look at the whole concept of how do we get back to hard money.

"We need to repeal the Humphrey-Hawkins Act. We need to say to the Federal Reserve: your only job is to maintain the stability of the dollar because we want a dollar to be worth thirty years from now what it is worth now because that optimizes saving and investment because people know what they are going to back.

"The very purpose of founding the Constitution was landowners and property owners who did not want inflation. And they felt that under the Articles of Confederation they were increasingly getting inflated paper money.

"Hard money is a discipline.  It means you can't just hide from your problems; you've got to solve them.  And you can't inflate away your difficulties; you actually have to work them away.  But I think it is very important for us to understand in finance that the entire contraption that has been built up over the last thirty or forty years has so much paper in it, so much debt, so much leverage, that we probably have a fifteen or twenty year period of working our way out of it.

"And yet, the alternative is to get sicker and sicker and sicker."

Wow.  Just, wow.  For us to nominate someone like Romney instead of Newt would be a travesty.  I don't think there is a single core problem that Mitt will even attempt to actually solve.

Key Highlights of the Opposition Research File on Mitt Romney

For a while I heard reports of a 200 page opposition research file that had been put together by the McCain campaign in 2008.  Well Andrew Kaczynski of Buzzfeed appears to have found it and posted it.  A lot of its contents are well known as Romney's problems are not exactly well hidden.  Anyway, below are some of the key items that I gleaned from the report that you might or might not have been aware of.  It really is amazing how wishy washy this guy is and how he really is a Massachusetts tax and spend liberal.  For much of the section on all the taxes/fees he increased I kept having The Beatles "Taxman" running through my head.  Who increases fees on the blind?  And on volunteer firemen?  Just amazing that he would do all that while also increasing spending 24% in just 3 years.  Then there is the question of the donation to Planned Parenthood.  I don't know anyone who is "personally" pro-Life who would ever entertain giving money to that pro-abortion group that was started by a racist eugenicist.  When you get down to the nitty gritty of what is at Romney's core, you just don't like what you see.

Anyway, here are the highlights.  If you have time, go to the report as well (embedded at the bottom of the page) as there is lots of supporting information for each of these items.

  • Romney’s Wife Ann Made Contribution To Planned Parenthood In 1994, Check Written “From The Romney’s Joint Checking Account.” (Page 18)
  • Section 3 Of The Health Care Reform Bill Romney Signed In To Law Requires That One Member Of MassHealth Payment Policy Board Must Be Appointed By Planned Parenthood Of Massachusetts. (Page 20)
  • In December 2005, Romney “Abruptly Ordered His Administration To Reverse Course … And Require Catholic Hospitals To Provide Emergency Contraception To Rape Victims.” (Page 21)
  • Romney “Refused To Comment” On Bill Pending In South Carolina Legislature Requiring That Abortion Doctors Offer Women Option Of Viewing Ultrasound. (Page 22)
  • Romney, In 2002: “We Do Have Tough Gun Laws In Massachusetts. I Support Them. I Won’t Chip Away At Them. I Believe They Help Protect Us And Provide For Our Safety.” (Page 31)
  • Romney Raised Gun Licensing Fee By 400 Percent. (Page 31)
  • In 1994, Romney Wanted Companies To Report Numbers Of Women And Minorities Hired In Order To“Break Through” The Glass Ceiling. (Page 37)
  • Under Romney, State Spending Increased By More Than 24% (Over $5 Billion) In Only Three Years – An Annual Increase Of 8%. (Page 46)
  • State And Local Tax Burden Increased By Over 7% While Romney Was Governor. (Page 46)
  • In 2005, Romney Backed Away From His Plan To Implement An “Internet Tourism Tax” [a tax for using companies such as Expedia and Travelocity] After Being“Spooked By Even The Suggestion He Might Raise Taxes.” (Page 49)
  • Romney Proposed The New Tax On Downloaded Software. (Page 49)
  • Romney Signed “Hidden Tax On The Dead” Into Law, Raising State Fee For Cremation Services By 50%. (Page 51)
  • Romney Proposed A New Fee On Volunteer Firefighters, Charging Them $100 Fee For Flashing Vehicle Lights. (Page 56)
  • State Doubled Certification Fees For Emergency Medical Personnel And Ambulances. (Page 56)
  • Increased Fees 337% For Recording Mortgages (Page 57)
  • Increased Fees 178% To Record Deeds (Page 57)
  • Increased Fees 650% To Record Trusts (Page 57)
  • Romney Charged Fee For Being Blind (Page 57)
  • Romney Also Proposed Imposing A Fee On The Mentally Retarded. (Page 57)
  • Romney “Stunned” Massachusetts Congressmen In 2003 “Telling Them That He Would Not Publicly Support Bush’s Tax Cuts.” (Page 59)
  • Romney Left Massachusetts With $1.3 Billion Deficit After His Term In Office. (Page 61)
  • Massachusetts Labor Force Contracted By 1.7% Between 2003 And 2005 – Only State In Nation With Three Straight Years of Decline – While National Labor Force Expanded By 3.1%. (Page 62)
  • Romney Proposed Installing 10 Percent Tax On Private Donations To Political Campaigns. “Romney’s 10% Tax On Free Speech Would Have Applied Even To Money That Candidates Paid Out OfTheir Own Pockets Into Their Own Campaigns.” (Page 90)
  • In 2003, Romney Said “I Think The Global Warming Debate Is Now Pretty Much Over” (Page 110)
  • 2003: Romney “Acknowledged That Carbon Dioxide Emissions Are Harming The Environment And Agreed To Help Design A Regional Emissions Cap” With Surrounding States. (Page 111)
  • Romney Pulled Massachusetts Out Of The Pact On December 14 – The Same Day He Announced He Would Not Seek Reelection As Governor. (Page 111)
  • At Press Conference Announcing New State Policy To Combat Global Warming, Romney Stated He Wasn’t Sure If Global Warming Was Happening. (Page 112)
  • One Of Romney’s Top Campaign Promises: “Reworking The Vehicle Excise Tax” To “Encourage The Purchase Of Fuel-Efficient Cars.” (Page 113)
  • Romney Teamed With Ted Kennedy – Whose Family Compound Has View Of Proposed Wind Farm Site –To Oppose Cape Wind Project. (Page 116)
  • Head Of Massachusetts Charter School Association Says He Was Unable To Get A Single Meeting With Romney In Four Years. (Page 119)
  • Romney Came Out Against School Vouchers In 2002 After Favoring Them In 1994. (Page 119)
  • Romney Sat On Board Of Damon Clinical Laboratories, A Bain Capital Portfolio Company Fined Nearly$120 Million In 1996 Due To Medicare Fraud. (Page 140)
  • Romney “Warmly Praised” Bill Clinton During ‘94 Senate Race.(Page 170)
  • Romney Left The State GOP Weaker Than When He Took Over As Governor. (Page 180)
  • Romney Donated To U.S. Rep. Dick Swett (D-NH). (Page 180)
  • Romney Donated To U.S. Rep. John LaFalce (D-NY) And U.S. Senate Candidate Doug Anderson (D-UT). (Page 180)
  • Boston Globe reported That During 1998 Panel On Urban Issues, Romney Claimed “Hillary Clinton Is Very Much Right, It Does Take A Village.” (Page 180)
  • Romney Considered ‘94 Senate Run As An Independent Before Dismissing It – Not Because He Wanted To Be A Republican, But Because It Was Impractical. (Page 181)
  • Romney Voted For Paul Tsongas In The 1992 Democratic Presidential Primary. At The Time, Romney Claimed He Voted For Tsongas Because He Was From Massachusetts AndPreferred His Ideas To Those Of Bill Clinton. (Page 181)
  • Romney Opposed The Contract With America Without Even Reading It. (Page 181)
  • 1994 Senate Debate: Romney “Praised Kennedy Almost As Much As He Criticized Him.” (Page 182)
Here is the whole thing:

McCain 2008 Oppo File